Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Is The Election Result Already Decided Despite Labours U Turn

Rishi Sunak has apparently decided that the general election will be in October, rather than November.

If so, it will surely be the first recorded example of a man breaking into a jog on his way to the gallows.

After another tumultuous week in Westminster, the fundamentals remain the same – Keir Starmer is heading for Downing Street.

The Labour leader has endured an uncomfortable few days, culminating in yet another U-turn, this time on the party’s previously-flagship policy of spending £28 billion a year on green energy projects.

And yet, all the available evidence suggests that the British public are determined to boot the Tories out and install Starmer as the next prime minister.

Two more polls published yesterday confirmed Labour remains at least 20 points ahead of the Conservatives, while numerous have emphasised voters’ desire for a change of government.

This is thanks in no small part to Sunak’s own troubles, which were once again on full display over the past week.

From cackhandedly agreeing to a £1,000 bet on Rwanda flights with Piers Morgan to making a joke about trans people in the presence of Brianna Ghey’s mother, the PM has merely confirmed what many in his party have already concluded – the guy is a loser.

“It’s like he’s a reverse King Midas – everything he touches turns to shit,” said one colleague.

Another Tory aide told HuffPost UK: “It’s just the dying days now.”

Keiran Pedley of pollsters Ipsos UK said the Tories are “running out of time” to turn things around.

Theres clearly been no sign of a shift in the polls since the New year, which the Conservatives would have hoped for,” he said.

“Around 7 in 10 voters tell us it’s time for a change at the next election. What they’ve got to do is change people’s minds about it being time for a change, which is not an easy thing to do.”

Pedley added: “The Conservatives will hope that next month’s Budget will be a setpiece moment that can turn things around, but they’ve also got by-elections and the local elections coming up which could make the situation even worse.”

If Labour really is heading inexorably towards victory in the general election, the party’s agonies over dumping the £28 billion green pledge have been instructive on how it might act when it’s in power.

Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves put on a united front in parliament on Thursday afternoon as they briefed political journalists on what was, by any measure, a particularly embarrassing and messy climbdown.

It has been obvious for weeks that the policy was heading for the knackers’ yard, and yet Labour’s top two seemed to be at odds over it. While Reeves would not even repeat the figure, Starmer was still mentioning it on Tuesday.

The Labour leader attempted to laugh off any suggestions that the pair were split, insisting Reeves’ only quibble with him was that he talked about football too much.

But his notorious thin skin was in evidence when he was asked by HuffPost UK if the Tories were right to call him “Mr Flip-Flop”.

He said: “This is ridiculous. I came into this place pretty late in life. In the real world, where I worked until I got here, everybody I worked with adjusted their positions when the circumstances changed and that was thought to be plain common sense. In fact, it would be pretty daft if you didn’t.

“This is the only place I’ve ever known where not adjusting your position to circumstances is supposed to be a great virtue. I don’t work in that way.”

One usually-loyal MP observed: “What does he mean by ‘in the real world’? He has no respect for politics or politicians.”

The behind-the-scenes wrangling over the green policy appears to be a symptom of a power struggle involving Morgan McSweeney, Labour’s national campaign director, and Sue Gray, Starmer’s chief of staff.

Matthew Doyle, Labour’s amiable director of communications, has even been caught in the crossfire, with some blaming him for the U-turn.

One frontbencher described it as the “a big boy did it and ran away” school of political accountability.

“There’s some crazy briefing and counter-briefing going around,” said a senior insider. “They’re at war and they’re not even in government yet.

“Keir and Rachel and their people being at odds, and all the sub-plots and dramas, is a massive moment.

“Once you do it the first time, it’s easier to do it again and again. It will have consequences in government.”

At the end of a difficult week, Starmer can console himself with the fact that it appears nothing can be done to knock his journey to No.10 off course.

But he’ll also know that things will only get harder for him once he gets there.


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